Encyclopedia of Medieval Church Art

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9780713474626: Encyclopedia of Medieval Church Art
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This is a comprehensive guide to the themes, origins, symbolism, variations and distribution of medieval church art in the British Isles. The book includes a short biography of all the saints along with accounts of relevant legends and associated attributes. The majority of images are taken from wood carvings, stone carvings, glass and paintings (mainly on wood) in cathedrals and parish churches and the book is designed as a reference work for all students of medieval life and culture, art, archaeology, architecture and history - as well as general readers.

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From Booklist:

The misleadingly titled Encyclopedia of Medieval Church Art does not cover medieval church art in general but is a guide to subjects depicted in sculpture, painting, stained glass, and other furnishings in English churches. The work is illustrated by 800 black-and-white photographs, all of which were taken by Tasker, a professional photographer and amateur historian who died in 1989.

The encyclopedia consists of subject-oriented chapters, profusely illustrated with Tasker's photographs and accompanied by his text. The chapters include "Old Testament," "New Testament," "St. Mary the Virgin," "Saints," "The Church," and "Everyday Scenes." Each chapter begins with several paragraphs describing the artistic representation of the subject, followed by alphabetically arranged entries for individual topics. For example, the chapter "Old Testament" includes entries for Old Testament figures (Abraham, David) and themes (Fall of Sodom and Gomorrah). Each entry includes a few lines describing the subject, then lists examples of its representation in churches, usually with a reference to an accompanying photograph. The text is descriptive with virtually no attempt to address style. Dates are rarely provided. Although most references are to Tasker's photographs, some are to illustrations in other books. In these cases, references to the book and plate or figure number are included. A bibliography of approximately 100 books and articles is included.

Tasker's photographs are the strength of this work. English medieval art has received relatively less attention than French or Italian art, and photographs of this quality and of this variety of pieces are rare. Photographs are essential for the study of architectural ornament because it is often difficult for church visitors to view artwork located on ceilings or otherwise inaccessible places. Photographs enable scholars to examine the details of the artwork more closely. Also, Tasker's photographs include a selection of delightful decorative pieces in smaller churches that have probably been overlooked by art historians. The chapter "Creatures Natural and Mythical," for example, includes examples of artwork illustrating about 75 animals, including an elbow rest of a bench at Christchurch priory depicting a pig in a pulpit and a bat on a misericord at Dunblane Cathedral.

In addition to its photographs, the encyclopedia is valuable for providing examples of typically English religious subjects. For example, depictions of the English Saints Ethelreda, Friswide, and John of Beverly are not easily located elsewhere. The chapter "Creatures Natural and Mythical" even includes a representation of the quintessentially English hedgehog.

The Encyclopedia of Medieval Church Art is recommended for academic art-history collections. Because of its narrow focus, libraries may want to place it in circulating, rather than reference, collections.

From Library Journal:

Tasker, an associate of the Royal Photographic Society, here records many unique carvings, paintings, and stained glass windows from churches in England. His title is terribly misleading, as this book resembles a scrapbook more than an encyclopedia. Divided by general theme, such as Old Testament, Saints, etc., the book suffers from a confusing variety of arrangements within each chapter-alphabetical, chronological, or by importance. Each entry offers an awkwardly brief description, and there is no glossary to help readers with the terminology. The book's scope is never defined, and the fact that only English churches are covered is hidden in the preface. There is no map or list of the sites, and the black-and-white photos hardly flatter the stained glass and paintings represented. This extremely disappointing encyclopedia is of no us to students or lay readers. Not recommended.
Karen Ellis, Baldwin Boettcher Lib., Humble, Tex.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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